Just can’t seem to get organized? Feeling a bit out of control? A little swamped?
Join the club.
And, it’s a mighty big club.
Organization may the single most problematic task for most of us, according to my completely unscientific poll of clients, friends and family. Oh, and the mailman. So, how about some tips on how to get organized?
Let me be frank here: if other people think you are disorganized but you are fine with how you live, then it’s not a problem. For you. Of course, if you have 25 years of old newspapers stacked ceiling high, 85 cats and 43 cases of yams stacked in untidy pyramids throughout your house, you might want to consider that there’s a problem… But it’s up to you.
If your disorganization makes you late — paying bills, keeping appointments, forgetting to take medication — or prevents you from being truly happy, then you need to make some changes. Here’s how:
Identify the problem. Take a notebook and walk around your home, or your office, and make a list of the areas that need attention. Be specific. “Hall closet” or “supply closet”, rather than “whole house” or “everything”. “Calendar” or “paying bills”, rather than “time” or “money”. Got it? Once you can identify the problem areas, you can make a plan to begin to attend to them. Cherry-pick the easiest task first, and if none of them seem easy, then pick the area where getting organized is going to have the biggest impact.
Break each problem area down into teeny-tiny little steps. For instance, take “paying bills”. What’s the optimal bill-paying process? Let’s write it down. OK. The mail comes. What do you have to do? Get the mail out of the box. Next? Sort the mail. Pull out the bills. Then what? Put them in a file folder? Pay them on the spot? What feels best for you? No, not throwing them into the trash, as much as you’re tempted. (Hey, I know your type.) Remember, what you resist persists, so if you hate paying bills and put it off, and off, and off, the problem will only get worse. So, make it as easy and painless as possible. And if you really, really can’t get the task done, outsource it — to your spouse, your eldest child, or hire a part-time personal assistant.
Tackle one problem at a time. We get overwhelmed when we try to pay the bills, organize the files, recast the calendar and write a strategic plan — all within the same 20 minute time period. Setting yourself up for failure, that is. Take one project at a time (that pesky “Hall closet”) and give yourself a realistic time frame for finishing it — even if that realistic time frame is three weeks. Remember, if you hit the wall on your project, that’s OK. Just keep on making teeny-tiny steps toward progress every day and soon enough the daggone closet will be tidy. That’s when you get to execute the very best tip:
Give yourself a reward. Honest. Give yourself something nice for having to do such a boring/nasty/unpleasant task. Make it something you look forward to — a solid hour of Guitar Hero, for instance; or, a long chat with your best friend. Link the reward with the action, Pavlov-style, and you will begin to look forward to knocking other tasks off your list.
The reward I love is free time. I figure that if I knock a project off thoroughly and don’t have to come back to it, I can then loaf absolutely guilt-free. Honey, talk about an incentive! Find the reward that means as much to you and you’ll find tackling overwhelming organizational tasks a snap.